RAYMUND RIBAY GUTIERREZ’ feature debut about domestic violence won the Special Jury Prize at the 76th Venice Film Festival on Saturday.

Verdict, produced by festival veteran Brillante Ma. Mendoza, was the only Southeast Asian film that made it into the film festival.

It competed against 18 other movies in the Orizzonti New Horizon’s competition. The Best Film prize was given to Atlantis by Ukranian filmmaker, Valentyn Vasyanovych.

The festival was held at the Palazzo del Cinema in Lido, Italy. The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world — its first run was in 1932 — and is considered one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world alongside Berlin International Film Festival in Germany and the Cannes International Film Festival in France.

The festival’s top prize — the Golden Lion — was given Todd Phillips’ Joker, beating out the controversial Roman Polanski’s film, An Officer and a Spy.

In 2016, Lav Diaz won the Golden Lion for Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left).

“With sharp-eyed empathy and a disciplined sense of pacing, writer-director Raymund Ribay Gutierrez defiantly sets out to confront this reality in a cramped corner of Manila, drawing attention to one such tragic incident in his reflective feature debut Verdict,” Tomris Laffly, who reviewed the film for Variety, wrote in an Aug. 29 post on the periodical’s website.

“Throughout this engrossing and sophisticated procedural with universal audience appeal, Gutierrez slowly dismantles his country’s imperfect justice system, where nightmarish bureaucracy gobbles up compassion and the urgent needs of the survivors take a backseat in a grueling Kafkaesque circus,” he added.

Mr. Gutierrez, whose film credits include the short films Judgment (2018) and Imago (2016) was nominated for the Palme d’Or Best Short Film in Cannes for both shorts. Imago additionally won Best Short Cuts at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Best Short Film Award at the Stockholm International Film Festival, and Best Short Film at the London Short Film Festival.

Verdict will be shown in selected Philippine cinemas from Sept. 13 to 19, during the third Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. — Zsarlene B. Chua